9 Tips for Cooking on a Modern Wood Stove

10 Tips for Cooking on a Modern Wood Stove

10 Tips for Cooking on a Modern Wood Stove

Beef and Barley Soup with Root Vegetables
Beef and Barley Soup with Root Vegetables, cooked on the wood stove, served with homemade Sourdough Chocolate Chip Banana Bread and Old Fashioned Fermented Cucumber Pickles

Have you ever wondered if you could cook on your wood stove? I don’t mean a cook stove; I mean the wood-burning stove in your living room that heats your home.

Wouldn’t it be fun to take advantage of the heat that is already there?

The ambiance provided by a pot of simmering soup or spiced cider is both comforting and appetizing! Wafting aromas tickle the nose and tease the senses, conjuring visions of the sufficiency and togetherness of former times when the kitchen (and the cook!) ruled as the undisputed heart of the home.

When we moved to our little 3+-acre homestead in southern Oregon in the spring of 2018, the 95-year-old house came with our dream wood stove: a Blaze King that boasted a gorgeous chestnut brown porcelain enamel finish and 30-hour burn time.

Visions of simmering soups, broth, and beans danced in my head! I just knew this stove would be a dream to cook on! My handy hubby had refurbished a small Vermont Castings wood stove and installed it in our previous home and I was anticipating all of the wonderful meals we would prepare on this one.

The first time I tried to cook a whole chicken in a pot of water on the shiny new Blaze King stove it did nothing. It just sat there, all day. Even though I started with hot tap water. It never quite reached a simmer, I ended up moving the pot to my kitchen stove to cook. 

Sam explained to me that our new wood stove was better insulated and more fuel efficient – just not for cooking. “The top doesn’t get as hot. It helps keep little kids from getting burned by accident,” he said. Which, I know, is a good thing. But it won’t cook our dinner.

I didn’t give up, though. The water in the big Turkish tea kettle that serves as a humidifier on the wood stove does evaporate, albeit slowly. Much experimentation ensued. Eventually, after a lot of trial and error, I was able to devise a simple method for harnessing the heat from our wood stove for cooking and I want to share it with you!

It really is simple!

Simply bring the pot of food to a boil on your kitchen stove first, then transfer it to your wood stove.

Now, for the helpful tips I promised:

Tip 1 Choose a pot or pan that is stove-top and/or oven-safe and has a lid.

Stainless steel, cast iron, and enamel-coated pots are all good choices because they conduct heat well. So is lead-free clay, but it must be safe for direct heat such as Emile Henry Dutch ovens. Aluminum is not a good choice as it does not hold heat well and carries potential health risks. That said, if you’re snowbound in a cabin somewhere and all there is in the cupboard is one aluminum pan, go ahead and use it.

Tip 2 Choose a pot that is the right size.

Food plus liquid should fill the pot by two-thirds to three-fourths. Beans tend to foam and need a few inches space at the top to avoid boil-overs. A pot with a wide base is good for most recipes. Broth can be cooked in a taller, narrower pot.

Tip 3 Pick a recipe with a lot of liquid.

The extra water or broth holds heat inside the pot, helping your food cook evenly. (With the exception of homemade applesauce, which releases quite a bit of juice as the apples cook down.)

Tip 4 Ingredients should be room or fridge temp, not frozen.

No frozen roasts or whole frozen chickens. Fully thawed roasts and whole chickens are fine. Beans should be pre-soaked 8-12 hours.

Tip 5 Add the ingredients to the pot and start cooking on your kitchen stove.

Bring the whole pot up to a boil and let it cook a while. How long? See the handy chart below for approximate cooking times.

Tip 6 Be home and be flexible.

Cooking times are approximate and depend on a number of factors: your wood stove, the type of food, type of cooking vessel, and whether you keep your stove running hot or let it gradually die down. Pick a day you will be home so you can keep an eye on it and add wood, if necessary. 

Tip 7 Cover the pot.

Unless it’s ready to boil over, which isn’t likely with a modern wood stove, you want the lid to stay on, conserving available heat to cook your food.

Tip 8 Stir only if needed

Think of it like a Crock Pot. Every time you remove the lid, the pot loses heat. Applesauce will need to be stirred about every half hour, everything else will do fine with just one or two stirrings during the cooking time.

Tip 9 If it fails to cook, move the pot back to your kitchen stove.

Experiment with the method a few more times before you give up. You may need to keep a hotter fire burning in your stove or try a different pot or recipe. This method won’t work for every stove, but I think it will work for many, if not most.

Tip 10 Have fun cooking!

Your stove, your fire, and your cooking vessel are unique. You’ll soon develop a knack for pulling off meals on your wood stove. You could create a signature dish, one that you always cook on the wood stove that signals “home” to you and your family. Enjoy!

Cooking on a wood stove
Classic comfort: poached chicken served with its broth and roasted veggies.

FoodPre-Cook on Your Kitchen StoveFinish Cooking on Your Wood Stove (approx.)Helpful Tips 
Beans, pre-soaked overnightBring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes with lid tilted. Skim foam.1-3 hours, depending on type of beanDiscard soaking water, add fresh water to cover beans by 2 inches (5 cm). Add salt near the end. Test several beans for doneness.
Applesauce from fresh apple slicesBring to a simmer with 1/4 cup water.5 – 1 hour, depending on quantityWash, core, and slice thinly. Leave peels on or not. Season with cinnamon if desired. Stir occasionally; mash.
Bone brothBring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes with lid tilted. Skim foam.4-12 hours, longer if desiredFor richer flavor, roast bones in 400*F (205C) oven 30 minutes before cooking. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons cider vinegar, salt if desired. Strain.
Veggie scrap brothBring to a low boil; reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes1-3 hours, until veggies are completely softAdd water to cover veggie scraps by 2 inches (5 cm). Add salt if desired. Pour through a fine mesh strainer when done.
Soups and stewsBring to a low boil; reduce heat and simmer 10-20 minutes30 minutes to 2 hoursSoups with delicate veggies cook more quickly than thicker soups and stews with root veggies. 
Whole chicken, 2 1/2 – 3 lbs. (1 – 1.5 kg)Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes with lid tilted. Skim foam.1-3 hoursAdd water to cover bird by 2 inches (5 cm). Add spices and salt as desired. Save the broth.
Chicken pieces, bone-inBring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes with lid tilted. Skim foam.1-2 hoursAdd water to cover chicken pieces by 2 inches (5 cm). Add spices and salt as desired. Save the broth.
Chicken pieces, bonelessBring to a low boil; reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes1 hourAdd water to cover chicken pieces by 2 inches (5 cm). Add spices and salt as desired. Save the broth.
Slow cooker mealsBring to a low boil; reduce heat and simmer 10-20 minutes2-8 hoursExperiment with your favorite slow cooker recipes to determine cooking time for your wood stove. (After you have tried some of the suggestions above.)
Mulled ciderBring to a simmer 1-4 hoursGreat for gatherings. Serve from the wood stove with adult supervision. 
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10 Tips for Cooking on a Modern Wood Stove

This handy chart will help you create nourishing comfort food with the help of your wood stove. Not a cook stove, but the wood-burning stove in your living room that heats your home. 

 

Take your pick from simple dishes like a pot o’ beans or broth for starters. Once you’re comfortable with those, move onto meals: soups, stews, whole poached chicken, and roasts. Lastly, once you’ve mastered the idiosyncrasies of your wood stove, try a slow cooker (Crock Pot) meal – you may need to add extra liquid to the recipe. 

 

Keep my 10 Tips for Cooking on a Wood Stove in mind and you’ll soon develop a knack for pulling off meals on your wood stove. 

  • Author: Michele Pryse, FNTP

Instructions

Food

Pre-Cook on Your Kitchen Stove

Finish Cooking on Your Wood Stove (approx.)

Helpful Tips 

Beans, pre-soaked overnight

Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes with lid tilted. Skim foam.

1-3 hours, depending on type of bean

Discard soaking water, add fresh water to cover beans by 2 inches (5 cm). Add salt near the end. Test several beans for doneness.

Applesauce from fresh apple slices

Bring to a simmer with 1/4 cup water

.5 – 1 hour, depending on quantity

Wash, core, and slice thinly. Leave peels on or not. Season with cinnamon if desired. Stir occasionally; mash.

Bone broth

Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes with lid tilted. Skim foam.

4-12 hours, longer if desired

For richer flavor, roast bones in 400*F (205C) oven 30 minutes before cooking. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons cider vinegar, salt if desired. Pour through a fine mesh strainer when done.

Veggie scrap broth

Bring to a low boil; reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes

1-3 hours, until veggies are completely soft

Add water to cover veggie scraps by 2 inches (5 cm). Add salt if desired. Pour through a fine mesh strainer when done.

Soups and stews

Bring to a low boil; reduce heat and simmer 10-20 minutes

30 minutes to 2 hours

Soups with delicate veggies cook more quickly than thicker soups and stews with root veggies. 

Whole chicken, 2 1/2 – 3 lbs. (1 – 1.5 kg)

Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes with lid tilted. Skim foam.

1-3 hours

Add water to cover bird by 2 inches (5 cm). Add spices and salt as desired. Save the broth.

Chicken pieces, bone-in

Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes with lid tilted. Skim foam.

1-2 hours

Add water to cover chicken pieces by 2 inches (5 cm). Add spices and salt as desired. Save the broth.

Chicken pieces, boneless

Bring to a low boil; reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes

1 hour

Add water to cover chicken pieces by 2 inches (5 cm). Add spices and salt as desired. Save the broth.

Slow cooker meals

Bring to a low boil; reduce heat and simmer 10-20 minutes

2-8 hours

Experiment with your favorite slow cooker recipes to determine cooking time for your wood stove. (After you have tried some of the suggestions above.)

Mulled cider

Bring to a simmer 

1-4 hours

Great for gatherings. Serve from the wood stove with adult supervision. 

 

 

 

Notes

Tip 1  Choose a pot or pan that is stove-top and/or oven-safe and has a lid. Stainless steel, cast iron, and enamel-coated pots are all good choices because they conduct heat well. So is lead-free clay, but it must be safe for direct heat. Aluminum is not a good choice as it does not hold heat well and carries potential health risks. That said, if you’re snowbound in a cabin somewhere and all there is in the cupboard is one aluminum pan, go ahead and use it.

 

Tip 2  Choose a pot that is the right size. Food plus liquid should fill the pot by two-thirds to three-fourths. Beans tend to foam and need a few inches space at the top to avoid boil-overs. A pot with a wide base is good for most recipes. Broth can be cooked in a taller, narrower pot.

 

Tip 3  Choose a recipe with a lot of liquid. The extra water or broth holds heat inside the pot, helping your food cook evenly. (With the exception of homemade applesauce, which releases quite a bit of juice as the apples cook down.)

 

Tip 4  Ingredients should be room temp or refrigerated, not frozen. No frozen roasts or whole frozen chickens. Fully thawed roasts and whole chickens are fine. Beans should be pre-soaked 8-12 hours.

 

Tip 5  Add the ingredients to the pot and start cooking on your kitchen stove. Bring the whole pot up to a boil and let it cook a while. How long? See the handy chart above for approximate cooking times.

 

Tip 6  Be home and be flexible. Cooking times are approximate and depend on a number of factors: your wood stove, the type of food, type of cooking vessel, and whether you keep your stove running hot or let it gradually die down. Pick a day you will be home so you can keep an eye on it and add wood, if necessary. 

 

Tip 7  Leave the lid on the pot. Unless it’s ready to boil over, which isn’t likely with a modern wood stove, you want the lid to stay on, conserving available heat to cook your food.

 

Tip 8  Stir only if necessary. Think of it like a Crock Pot. Every time you remove the lid, the pot loses heat. Applesauce will need to be stirred about every half hour, everything else will do fine with just one or two stirrings during the cooking time.

 

Tip 9  If it fails to cook, move the pot back to your kitchen stove. Experiment with the method a few more times before you give up. You may need to keep a hotter fire burning in your stove or try a different pot or recipe. This method won’t work for every stove, but I think it will work for many, if not most.

 

Tip 10  Have fun experimenting! Your stove, your fire, and your cooking vessel are unique. You’ll soon develop a knack for pulling off meals on your wood stove. You could create a signature dish, one that you always cook on the wood stove that signals “home” to you and your family. Enjoy!

Did you make this recipe?

Share a photo and tag me — I can’t wait to see what you’ve made!

Have fun cooking up a storm on your wood stove! The coziness factor of a pot of food simmering on the wood stove can’t be measured in hours and ingredients. 

whole poached chicken on the wood stove
Slow cooker or Crock Pot meals such as this Bacon Teriyaki chicken served with the flavorful pot liquor and veggies, are easy to adapt to wood stove cooking. Add a forkful of fermented veggies for a nutrient-dense meal.
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